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Adventures of a #BookBlogger abroad – ‘Adventure before dementia’ Part II

Super holiday blog and book reviews combined from @MrsBloggsReader!

Mrs Bloggs' Books

Sorry for the delay in posting up Part II of our Adventures of a Book Blogger Abroad.

I arrived back in the UK to discover that blood tests carried out before the trip had revealed that my white cells were very low and other cells were misbehaving. This is an ongoing medical condition, will spare the details but it left me with little or no energy and I couldn’t even face blogging, hence the delay with this post and my break from blogging.

Right so to start the third week of our French adventure we left the beautiful Rhône-Alpes and headed across France in the rain to the Loire Valley where we’d hired another gite.

This one was in Brain-sur-Allonnes and whilst our gite in the Rhône-Alpes was cosy and rustique,this one was an ultra modern eco-friendly kit built house. Very chic,modern and comfortable but best of all…

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What would you do with your first edition copies? Read Lucinda E Clarke’s blog on the quandary of unwanted quantity…

lucinda E Clarke

I was reading a book the other day – yes really, I do read, I’m a voracious reader, in bed, the smallest room, during meals if I can get away with it, while not watching the television, you get the picture. But I gave DH (Dear husband) quite a fright when I shrieked with joy the other day. I’d not only found a typo but noticed a plot hole in a book by a very, very famous household-name writer. Yes!! Even the best of us and their top five publishing companies are not perfect.

I still cringe when I think of the mistakes I made with my first book, I probably shot myself in the foot at the beginning of a possible career as an author (who am I kidding I’m long past career time, I’m supposed to be retired). You know the kind of mistakes. The CreateSpace cover taken…

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Anyone can write a memoir…

That’s a bold statement, isn’t it?

But have you ever thought of writing a memoir?

Is it possible that you don’t think your life has been interesting enough to write about it?

I think many people feel that way, and I would challenge that. In my encounters with the great variety of individuals I meet in my job as a freelance teacher, I’ve learned that nearly everyone has some kind of interesting story to tell. And if that’s the case, then in theory everyone has the potential to write a memoir.

But what actually is a memoir? This is quite difficult to define because there are so very many different sorts of non-fictional autobiographical writing. For now, then, I am defining a memoir as “a record of events written by someone who has personal and intimate knowledge of them” (Oxford Online Dictionary). So, you might well ask, what does that encompass? Well, I would say that it’s more or less anything that you yourself have personally experienced!

As a point of interest, I belong to a Facebook group called We Love Memoirs and I was amazed when I joined to see how many different types, topics and subjects there are. It seems that whatever people have experienced themselves is valid material for a memoir. In the last couple of years, I’ve read memoirs ranging from recollections of being an au pair in France in the 1970s to one about surviving an abusive marriage. I’ve also read numerous travelogues and books about moving to another country. These all count as memoirs. because they are all based on people’s real life experience. But how was I inspired to write my own memoirs and why did I do it?

My most popular memoir, Watery Ways, is published by Sunpenny Publishing under its Boathooks Books imprint, but the first one I wrote, African Ways, was inspired by Peter Mayle’s A Year in Provence. I read it in 2005 after I’d been living in the Netherlands for a few years and as I read I was reminded of the wonderful rural people I’d known and loved while living in South Africa during the 1980s and 1990s.

It occurred to me that rural people are similar wherever you go, whether in France, England or in Africa. I’d had a special introduction to South Africa on a farm in what is now KwaZulu Natal, and when I finished Peter Mayle’s book, I realised I wanted to write about the people I knew there and what it was like to move from the mod cons of the UK to a rather primitive rural environment. This was my reason to start writing, and since African Ways, I’ve written three other memoirs, of which Watery Ways is the second. Each of these memoirs covers specific periods in my life. They are not autobiographies, but they are autobiographical in that they are about my personal experiences.

The fact is that people are interested in other people’s experiences if they are different from their own. I’ve seen memoirs about being a nurse, being a teacher, and being a soldier – all of which have been very popular judging by the reviews on Amazon. The point isn’t so much what you write about, but how you tell the story, that makes a memoir interesting to read.

A memoir is not just a dry record of facts; it is a narrative. If you imagine standing at the coffee machine at work with someone who has just come back from a wonderful holiday and they tell you about their trip in such a way that you are spellbound by their story, that’s effectively what a memoir should do.

How do we go about this then? Well if we accept the premise that everyone has a story to tell, but they don’t know how to tell it, I can fully recommend beginning your memoir writing career as a blog.

I started writing my recollections of South Africa and its people on Blogger with a weekly post. I invited people I was already blogging with to read it and so African Ways was born. What I did was to upload a new chapter more or less every week, and my readers would comment on the post. Sometimes, they’d give me feedback too, but mostly, I could gauge whether they liked the story or not by how many comments I received. This was great as it kept me going, and when I reached the last post and the last chapter, I knew they’d enjoyed it all by the sadness with which they received the announcement that I’d come to the end.

I should mention that I’d never written a book before and didn’t know if I could. and I have to say the blog really helped my momentum. Just receiving that input every time I posted a chapter was immensely encouraging, so I can recommend it as a starting point. I don’t know now if I would have finished it had I not had that incentive to keep going.

The other helpful part was knowing the story in advance. I don’t really know if I have the imagination and creativity to write complete fantasy, but that’s not to say memoir writers are not creative. It’s true that all the memories and stories are already in place, but the memoir writer has to make it interesting to read and not just a ‘then we did this and then we did that’ narrative. And to do that you need to work on your powers of observation and description, and also to realise that your readers don’t know what you know.

Just for example, Watery Ways is about how I learn to live on an old barge in Rotterdam. When I first moved onto the barge, I really had no clue about how many uses a bucket might have, for example, or the best way to fill it from the harbour. This was a skill I had to learn, and so I describe it in my book. It was a simple thing, but the point is, if it was new to me, it will be new to other people too and if you can convey your own interest, passion and enthusiasm for such simple things in your writing, you will have an audience for your experiences, whatever they are.

One of the techniques you can employ too is using dialogue. Now none of us remembers whole conversations, but we often remember snippets that are amusing, or moving, or meaningful in some way and if you can include pieces of these conversations in your memoir, you can give it life and liveliness. It really helps. One memoir I read a while ago was written with complete chapters of dialogue, and this was the author’s technique for telling her story. One of mine was written in themes, using the past tense; the second two were both in the present tense. Other memoirs include recipes as chapter dividers or quotes from literature, which just goes to show that you can be creative in the way you tell your very real and true story.

As I mentioned before, memoirs are not necessarily autobiographies, and quite often they focus on individual experiences such as a sailing adventure, a mountain climbing trip or a special hiking holiday to somewhere exotic. They might be about music, or even about writing; they could be about living with an illness or overcoming an emotional trauma. The subject is entirely up to the individual and what his or her special experience might be.

So if you have a story to tell, either your own or maybe about someone in your family, take the plunge and start writing. It might be the moment you discover you can complete an entertaining and creatively satisfying book without ever having to worry about the plot and characters. As long as you structure it well on a good theme, then everything else is there!

If you’d like to take a peek at my memoirs, here’s the link to my Amazon page where they are listed:




Adventures of a #bookblogger abroad. ‘Adventure before dementia’ Part 1…

Forgive my pride at being mentioned here by the marvellous Mrs Bloggsreader in hee wonderful post about France. The photos are gorgeous! 🙂

Mrs Bloggs' Books

Followers of mine on Twitter must be wondering what on earth I’m doing posting photos from the length and breadth (almost) of France recently on Twitter, well here is why.

My husband is newly retired and as a pair of rabid francophiles we promised ourselves a good round trip to France to celebrate. A sort of ‘adventure before dementia’.

I finished this book on the last day before the trip. Angling Bumateurs from Lesley Krier Tither aka Tottielimejuice. The fifth book in the very enjoyable Sell The Pig Trilogy Love the title! Feel like an Angling Bumateur most of the time 😮 My Review for the book isHere

Family had rented a caravan on a camp for a week in Frejus down in Southern France, so we decided to join them but drive down, stopping overnight twice, stay for ten days renting our own van, then travel back home…

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Llanddwyn Island


The English Writing Festival: can anyone write a memoir?


A very inspiring event. Follow the link for the full write-up!



Always entertainment here on Lucinda’s blog!

lucinda E Clarke

At last we were on our own, but was this a good thing? We flew from Bangkok into Kuala Lumpur and got ourselves to the hotel with no problem. Then we collapsed into bed – no, to sleep, we had no energy left for anything else! We’re both at that stage now when the spirit is willing but the body has had enough by 10 am.

Since they didn’t serve dinner at the hotel, we ventured out in the evening and had a long discussion on the pavement as to which way to go – DH always has to turn the map upside down, I don’t. I must have a revolving brain or something like that. As usual I wanted to go one way and he wanted to go in the opposite direction – all a bit stupid really as we only needed to get round to the other side…

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